China deports 10 pro-Tibet activists (Lead)

August 25th, 2008 - 5:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 25 (DPA) China has deported all 10 of the pro-Tibet activists it arrested for protesting or helping to organize protests during the Beijing Olympics, releasing them before the end of their 10-day detention following pressure from the US embassy in Beijing, a US-based Tibet rights group said Monday.”All 10 have been deported. They were deported at 9:20 a.m. Sunday New York time (Sunday evening in Beijing) right before the end of the closing ceremony,” said Heather Reddick, an international operations director for the New York-based Students for a Free Tibet.

All of the detained are from the group. Eight are Americans and they landed around noon Monday in Los Angeles, Reddick said.

The other two - a Tibetan-German and a Briton - have arrived in Germany, according to a pro-Tibet group in Germany, of which they are members.

“They’re a little worn, but fine,” said Reddick whose group had received telephone contact from members of the detained.

Reddick said it was difficult to know whether any of the detained activists was mistreated, since the group has had no communications with the detained since they were arrested last week.

“We did have a sense from the little information we have that there was some mistreatment,” she said without elaborating. She said one of them sent a text message to the group after being released.

They were all released short of their extra-judicial sentence.

Some 50 pro-Tibet activists from the group held a series of protests in Beijing before and during the Olympics to highlight the suppression of Tibetans. China arrested and deported most of them, but it ordered the 10 activists to 10 days of administrative detention without trial, which is allowed under Chinese law.

The US embassy in Beijing Saturday issued a statement urging China to release the group immediately, appealing to China to demonstrate respect for human rights and expressing disappointment “that China has not used the occasion of the Olympics to demonstrate greater tolerance and openness”.

Students for a Free Tibet issued a statement saying that while it welcomed the release of the 10 activists, thousands of Tibetans remain missing or detained in China’s ongoing crackdown against predominantly peaceful protests that began in Lhasa in March.

The situation in Tibet also has deteriorated, with heavy security presence during the Olympics and many Tibetans living in “a climate of surveillance, intimidation, acute fear, and a threat of violence from Chinese troops, paramilitary and police,” said Tenzin Dorjee, deputy director of Students for a Free Tibet.

Tibetans and Tibet analysts fear an escalation of the Chinese government’s clampdown in Tibet after the Olympic spotlight on China has moved on, he said.

Meanwhile, a US-based Catholic group has said that a 73-year-old underground bishop has been arrested in China.

Julius Jia Zhiguo, bishop of the unregistered or “underground” Roman Catholic congregation of Zhengding village in northeast China’s Heibei province, was arrested by Chinese officials Sunday morning, according to the Cardinal Kung Foundation.

It was the 12th time Jia has been arrested since 2004, the foundation said in a statement issued late Sunday. He has spent 18 years in prison.

He was last arrested in August last year, and released again in December.

“We do not know where Bishop Jia is detained at this time. We also do not know why he was arrested again this time,” said Joseph Kung, head of the foundation.

After his release in December, Jia was placed under house arrest, confined to the living quarters of his cathedral in Heibei and not allowed to receive any visitors except for a few rare occasions when the visits were supervised and accompanied by government officials, Kung said.

Jia was consecrated bishop of Zhengding in 1980, mandated by Pope John Paul II, and leads a Roman Catholic community with approximately 110,000 members.

Two Catholic churches exist in China. The official state-run church does not recognize the authority of the Pope.

Jia is one of approximately 40 underground bishops in China, every one of whom is either in prison, missing, under house arrests, or under surveillance, Kung said.

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